Sunday, November 13, 2011

We Stole A Couple Of Players From Buffalo Bill

Genins and Hutchinson, who arrived with the "Wild West," were engaged for the Papins, and will settle down to a civilized life on the ball field.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 11, 1884

I can't explain why I'm so interested in the idea of the Wild West Show playing in St. Louis but it fascinates me.  And I love the idea of a couple of guys from the show quitting to play baseball.  If we could figure out who Genins and Hutchinson were, it would make for a nice, little article.


Mike S said...

is it ironic that two people leaving the Wild West show to go play baseball are considered to be settling down to a "civilized life on the ball field"?

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I think that by 1884 attitudes towards professional baseball players had changed a great deal but I doubt that it was as yet considered a honored profession. It was probably still seen as the province of drunkards and scoundrels and the low class but not quite to the extend that it was a decade or so before. So it is a bit surprising that it's seen as a step up from the life of the traveling show. I would think that most "civilized" people saw it as a lateral move.

The Globe was probably making a comment on what the Wild West Show represented as compared to life in the modern, urban, civilized cities of time. Baseball was part of that modern life but was not universally seen as a civilizing influence. And there in lies your irony.

I think what really interests me about the Wild West Show is how it helps but the baseball stuff in context. I sometimes forget when and where this is all taking place. I'm so used to dealing with 19th century baseball that it's almost routine. Something like Buffalo Bill and his show, which is an iconic 19th century phenomenon, helps me to remember that this all was happening almost 150 years ago. It helps ground it in its time and place. Plus, the Wild West Show was pretty cool and I'd have loved to have seen it.